Indigeneity & Climate Justice


Justice Forward: Tribes, Climate Adaptation and Responsibility

Whyte, K. P. (2013). Justice forward: Tribes, climate adaptation and responsibility. Climatic Change, 120(3), 517-530.

Federally-recognized tribes must adapt to many ecological challenges arising from climate change, from the effects of glacier retreat on the habitats of culturally significant species to how sea leave rise forces human communities to relocate. The governmental and social institutions supporting tribes in adapting to climate change are often constrained by political obstructions, raising concerns about justice. A justice framework should guide how leaders, scientists and professionals of all heritages and who work with or for federally-recognized tribes understand what actions are morally essential for supporting tribes’ adaptation efforts. This paper motivates a shift to a forward-looking framework of justice. The framework situates justice within the systems of responsibilities that matter to tribes and many others.

A Concern about Shifting Interactions between Indigenous and Non-Indigenous Parties in US Climate Adaptation Contexts

Whyte, K. P. (2014). A concern about shifting interactions between indigenous and non-indigenous parties in US climate adaptation contexts. Interdisciplinary Environmental Review, 15(2-3), 114-133.

Indigenous peoples everywhere are preparing for or already coping with a number of climate change impacts, from rising sea-levels to shifting harvesting seasons. It is plausible that the capacity for environmental protection of two political institutions will change in relation to certain impacts: treaties and indigenous governmental jurisdictions recognised by the federal governments of nations such as the USA or Canada. This essay explores critically whether current solutions for these changes depend far too crucially on non-indigenous parties’ coming to an appropriate understanding of indigenous culture and self-determination.

Indigenous Women, Climate Change Impacts and Collective Action

Whyte, K. P. (2014). Indigenous women, climate change impacts, and collective action. Hypatia, 29(3), 599-616.

For some indigenous peoples, climate change impacts can disrupt the continuance of the systems of responsibilities. Within this domain of indigeneity, some indigenous women take seriously the responsibilities that they may perceive they have as members of their communities. For the indigenous women who have such outlooks, responsibilities that they assume in their communities expose them to harms stemming from climate change impacts and other environmental changes. Yet at the same time, their commitment to these responsibilities motivates them to take on leadership positions. I show why, at least for some indigenous women, this is an important way of framing the climate change impacts that affect them. I argue for the how this affects the political responsibilities of nonindigenous parties.

Is It Colonial Deja Vu? Indigenous Peoples and Climate Injustice

Whyte, K. (2016). Is it colonial déjà vu? Indigenous peoples and climate injustice. Humanities for the Environment: Integrating Knowledges, Forging New Constellations of Practice. Edited by J. Adamson, M. Davis, and H. Huang, pgs. 88-104. Earthscan Publications.

Indigenous peoples are among the most audible voices in the global climate justice movement. Yet, as I will show in this chapter, climate injustice is a recent episode of a cyclical history of colonialism inflicting anthropogenic (human-caused) environmental change on Indigenous peoples. Indigenous peoples face climate risks largely because of how colonialism, in conjunction with capitalist economics, shapes the geographic spaces they live in and their socio-economic conditions. In the North American settler colonial context, which I focus on in this chapter, U.S. settler colonial laws, policies and programs are ‘both’ a significant factor in opening up Indigenous territories for carbon-intensive economic activities and, at the same time, a significant factor in why Indigenous peoples face heightened climate risks. Climate injustice, for Indigenous peoples, is less about the spectre of a new future and more like the experience of déjà vu.

Indigenous Climate Change Studies: Indigenizing Futures, Decolonizing the Anthropocene

Whyte, K. (2017). Indigenous climate change studies: Indigenizing futures, decolonizing the Anthropocene. English Language Notes. 55 (1-2): 153-162.

Indigenous and allied scholars, knowledge keepers, scientists, learners, change-makers, and leaders are creating a field to support Indigenous peoples’ capacities to address anthropogenic (human-caused) climate change. Indigenous studies often reflect the memories and knowledges that arise from Indigenous peoples’ living heritages as societies with stories, lessons, and long histories of having to be well-organized to adapt to seasonal and inter-annual environmental changes. At the same time, our societies have been heavily disrupted by colonialism, capitalism, and industrialization. I perceive at least three key themes reflected across the field that suggest distinct approaches to inquiries into climate change. Through discussing these themes, I will claim that Indigenous studies offer critical, decolonizing approaches to how to address climate change. The approaches arise from how our ways of imagining the future guide our present actions.

Way Beyond the Lifeboat: An Indigenous Allegory of Climate Justice

Whyte, K. (2017). Way beyond the lifeboat: An Indigenous allegory of climate justice. Climate Futures: Reimagining Global Climate Justice. Eds D. Munshi, K. Bhavnani, J. Foran & P. Kurian. University of California Press. Forthcoming.

In my experiences, most Indigenous peoples have complicated stories to tell about anthropogenic climate change that often start with their being harmed by fossil fuel industries.  Climate injustice against Indigenous peoples is insidious, as it involves years of coupled colonial and capitalist domination. Is there a succinct way to convey an Indigenous perspective on climate justice that makes the connections between capitalism and industrialization and colonialism? This short essay uses a story of vessels, in allegorical form, to describe the complexity of Indigenous climate justice. The allegory seeks to convey how decolonization and anti-colonialism, understood in senses appropriate to the allegory, cannot be disaggregated from climate justice for Indigenous peoples.